Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Normalized Canine Butchery

"Grandpa strokes my poodle on his lap and says, 'This is just the right size for a bowl of bosintang. He's joking, but whenever he says that, I snatch my dog from him."
Kim Yoo-na, 14, Wonju, South Korea

"It's the difference between heaven and hell [the life of a pet dog and one raised to be eaten in South Korea]."
"I was not ashamed of my way of making a living [raising dogs to be slaughtered for the table], but I was not proud of it either."
Gong In-young, dog-meat farmer, Wonju, South Korea
Thailand's Illegal Dog Meat trade
Trucks containing 130 dogs are seized on the highway between Thailand and Vietnam. Photograph: Luke Duggleby

Ten to twenty million dogs are slaughtered for their meat in China on an annual basis. A tradition that dates back to the time of Confucius. Dogs are bred, raised, kept in cages then sold to slaughterhouses in China, South Korea and other Asian nations where people consider dog meat an indispensable part of their cuisine. Mr. Gong, for example, keeps dogs locked up in steel cages, and there they are kept their entire lives; fed until they are mature enough to be taken to the slaughterhouse, their meat going to the marketplace.

That this is the tradition that keeps Mr. Gong in business supplying a market for ardent dog-meat aficionados has not kept this 55-year-old from loving and doting on an elderly Spitz on his farm, whom he has named Snow-White and who is viewed as one of his family. The dissonance in how he views the two, his beloved pet, well cared for and treasured, and the dogs that have no present and no future; his mind is shut, as a farmer and dog breeder-for-meat, to their plight.

Animal-rights groups have been attempting to reach people like Mr. Gong, to instill in them a humane reaction to the tradition of viewing dogs as table meat. Those groups estimate that 30 million dogs, most of which have been stolen or are feral, are slaughtered annually for meat throughout Asia. In South Korea the trade in dog meat is of an industrialized nature.

Over 17,000 dog farms, some raising over a thousand animals each, supply two million dogs to the marketplace for dog meat. This is a tradition held to be centuries-old, according to government data. Huskies, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers and other breeds are held in Mr. Gong's cages complex, barking and struggling at the wires of the cages they're held in. As the dog-eating season in summer draws near, dog traders come to visit.

The value of a 36-kilogram dog is about $250. In transporting the dogs, they are crowded into cages unable to move; some suffocate before arrival at slaughterhouses where they are meant to be electrocuted. From there, wholesale meat dealers deliver the carcasses to dog-meat restaurants. Koreans name their special dog dish "bosintang", or "soup good for your body", popularized at a time when meat was in short supply.

It is a culinary history of which Koreans take great pride, including those who shun the dish, taking umbrage when foreigners criticize the practise. Yet South Korean tastes are changing as are their attitudes toward the practise of eating dog meat, particularly among the young for whom keeping pets has replaced eating dogs. The very idea of eating dog meat is grotesque and disgusting to young Koreans.

Mr. Gong's own son would never touch dog meat. Recently, he watched as the process of taking 17 of his dogs in flight to the United States under an agreement with the Humane Society International group whose campaign against dog farms in South Korea has made some inroads. Mr. Gong expressed his reaction, viewing photographs of the dogs now living abroad as pets, saying he "felt better".

Yulin, in southern China, has an annual dog-meat eating festival, where protests from animal rights activists have had no effect whatever. At dozens of restaurants across the city, vendors slaughtered dogs, cooking their meat for their avidly awaiting clients. In reaction, activists bought dogs from dealers planning to slaughter them, doing whatever little they could to ease the plight of individual dogs under the circumstances.

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